Canada's trade minister is promising to release a provisional copy of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement in the next few days — but Ed Fast won't say whether it will include details of the all-important side deals.
"We fully expect over the next few days we'll be able to release a form of the text," Fast said Thursday during a breakfast question-and-answer session being hosted by the Vancouver Board of Trade.
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The text is currently being translated into several languages, including Spanish, he added.
"We've asked the TPP partners to allow us ... to release a provisional text. It may not be fully scrubbed but it will confirm the outcomes we've already released in summary earlier this week."
Trade agreements of such scale are very complex documents and it's vital that they be carefully translated to ensure each word correctly reflects the agreement, he added.
"Remember this agreement was only concluded three days ago. You have 1500 pages of legal text," Fast said.
He said he can't commit to releasing the so-called side letters — individual agreements between countries on specific sectors.
"I can't say that (side letters) will be part of the provisional (agreement)," he said. "We're looking at what the 12 TPP partners will agree to release."
Forestry side deal with Japan
One side letter, he said, would include a deal on processed and unprocessed forestry products between Canada and Japan.
"We have secured outcomes across all the major sectors ... including forestry products, value-added wood products," said Fast. "Markets like Japan are going to much more available to Canadian exporters."
The minister said he didn't know how many side deals there are and referred the question to his staff.
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Both Fast and Industry Minister James Moore, who also took part in the discussion, were asked about U.S. Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton, who earlier this week came out against the agreement.
Clinton said that based on what she knows so far about the pact, she can't support it because it doesn't appear to do enough to protect American jobs, wages and national security.
Fast said the Americans are in the midst of a race for presidential nominations and that her comments should be viewed in that context.
"They've got their own silly season they're in. I'm focused on making sure Canadians understand what's in this agreement," he said.
"This cements our position as one of the great free trading nations of the world."
Fast says he believes the deal, which includes 11 other Pacific Rim countries, is worth about $3.5 billion of additional economic activity to Canada, based on estimates from his officials.
He says it was vital for Canada to be at the table and part of the deal, billed by Conservative Leader Stephen Harper as the biggest trade agreement of its kind in history.
Canada should reject TPP too: Mulcair
Harper was played "like a chump" in the TPP talks, NDP Leader Tom Mulcair said at a town hall meeting Thursday in Toronto.
Mulcair latched onto Clinton's opposition, saying the U.S. democratic presidential hopeful has joined a growing list of "progressives" across North America who see the 12-country deal as bad for jobs and the families those jobs support.
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Mulcair said the Conservatives were duped into accepting a bum deal and it needs to be rejected in Canada, too.
"Hillary Clinton finds that the bar hasn't been set high enough in the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement for Americans, and yet we know that the auto deal that the Americans got in the TPP is better than what Stephen Harper was able to get," Mulcair said in front of a room full of supporters in downtown Toronto.
"And you know why? Stephen Harper went into those negotiations two weeks away from a federal general election in an incredibly feeble position," said Mulcair.
"Everyone around that table knew it, and they played him like a chump."
Campaigning in Woodbridge, Ont., Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau emphasized that his party is pro-trade.
"We're committed to bringing this deal before Parliament to have a full airing. And I am resolute in my support for trade as a way of growing our economy and creating good jobs for Canadians," he said.
"We look forward to seeing the full details of this accord."